The loss snapped Houston's eight-game win streak, which has propelled the team into third place in the Western Conference.
For a myriad of reasons, Houston's fans have been divided all season long. Check out any message board or read the comments on any Rockets article and you'll see what I'm talking about (or, in all likelihood, just scroll to the bottom of this page and join in on argument).
It's like there's a civil war going on amongst the Rockets community. Some people argue that Jeremy Lin should be starting. Some people disagree (I called for him to come off the bench before the season, and feel the role suits him). Some people think that James Harden is a ball hog. Some people disagree (being an iso player doesn't make you a ball hog; it makes you can iso player). Some people hate Dwight Howard. Well, actually people are pretty united on that front, but if you like the Rockets, you should be learning to like D12.
You get the point. As someone who has covered the team all season long and has been firmly in the crosshairs of this venomous bickering, here are 15 things that all Rockets fans should agree upon (something tells me that's not going to happen, though):
1. Jeremy Lin and James Harden do not compliment each other... at all
We've watched Harden and Lin play side by side for a year and a half now, and it's pretty clear that they aren't peanut better and jelly (if they were, Harden would be the peanut butter, but definitely creamy because he's so smooth). They both want to attack from the circle area, and they both want to be "the man" offensively. Harden is a significantly better pure scorer, making him an ideal 2, while Lin is a classic combo guard, making him an ideal sixth man. Lin will affect the playoff race from his scorers role in the second unit, and he'll also finish a fair amount of games (with Houston either going small like they did Thursday night or with Lin playing in place of Beverley).
Whether you're a big Lin fan, a big Harden fan, or a fan of the team, let's at least agree that they don't have chemistry together.
2. Donatas Motiejunas can ball
From November 1 to January 15, D-Mo went 2-22 from 3-point land. Since that time, Motiejunas has been firmly in Houston's rotation, averaging 7.4 points and 5.0 rebounds, while shooting 49% from the field and 41% from distance. He's only 23, he's a solid backup 4, he can shoot the 3 (only in the winter apparently), he can finish with either hand in the post, and he's a legitimate seven footer. Not to mention he's Bill Worrell's favorite player, which has to be worth something.
3. Patrick Beverley is the perfect foil to James Harden
Harden plays with coolness and skill; Beverley plays with ferocity, electricity, and reckless abandon. Harden is thick and strong; Beverley looks like he needs a meal. Harden is the best offensive shooting guard in the NBA, and a weak defender; Beverley is a top-flight defender whose best offensive asset is his offensive rebounding. It's a match made in heaven, and if you can't see that, you're watching the wrong game.
4. Chandler Parsons is an elite player and the Rockets glue guy
Who would you rather play with: Carmelo Anthony or Chandler Parsons? Who would you rather have at small forward for Houston: Parsons, Luol Deng or Nicolas Batum? I take Chandler Bang. I watch Parsons night in and night out, and there isn't a signal negative statement I can say about him. He's tough mentally and physically, he can do everything there is to do on a basketball, and he's a great communicator. Let's just hope he'll take a deal in the ballpark of four years and $48 million to stay in Houston, because he makes this wheel go round.
5. Omer Asik is very valuable coming off the bench
Who else in the NBA has the luxury of having an elite defensive NBA center on the court at all times? That's a leg up on Golden State, the Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks, Oklahoma City Thunder and Portland Trail Blazers. As for Asik's happiness, I believe when he steps on the court, he's going to compete; until he proves otherwise, I'll keep my faith in Houston's favorite, curly-headed big man.
6. Dwight Howard can not be counted on for post offense every night
7. Dwight Howard can be counted on for interior defense every night
If you haven't noticed by now, Howard isn't a dominant offensive player. He's the closest thing the NBA has in terms of dominant centers right now, but he isn't a guy that opposing teams have to double every time he touches the ball. Defensively, he's the best center around, and it's not that close. The guy is a freak of nature, who possesses a handful of post moves that he's finally learning to use properly, and he plays hard every night (consistency is a major factor when it comes to assessing big men; Mavericks fans can attest to that after watching Eric Dampier for years). He's the best center in the NBA; a league in which post scorers are becoming less and less effective (due mainly to the increase in 3-pointers taken and the fact that post defenders can just fall down and take a charge when they're getting backed down).
8. Isaiah Canaan looks exactly like Stefan Urquelle from Family Matters
Remember when Urkle used to shift into his suave alter ego in Family Matters? Canaan looks just like the suave Urkle (known as Stefan Urquelle). Don't be alarmed if you didn't pick up on that earlier.
9. Harden's defense won't cost Houston a playoff series
Harden is a lazy defender; I don't think anyone is confusing him with Beverley on that end of the court. However, when he's engaged, he turns into an average defender with solid strength and good hands. On Thursday night, he played solid defense on David Lee when Golden State went small, forcing the turnover that led to Harden's go-ahead jumper with seven seconds to go. In most playoff matchups, there will be a place to hide Harden (on Thabo Sefolosha against Oklahoma City for example), and when there isn't, he'll up his game. I can personally guarantee that Harden's defense will not be a major reason Houston drops a playoff series; I'll go on record with that.
10. Terrence Jones is just beginning to figure out his game
Jones is six-foot nine, with strength, guard skills, shot-blocking ability, and little experience as a post defender. I have faith that Houston will figure out how to use Jones and his high NBA IQ effectively, but his skill set is kind of hard to pencil into a specific role. He's still young, and he's still getting better. Check back in on this one when he's averaging 18 and 10 in two years.
11. Kevin McHale is not a bad coach
McHale is a poor tactician, but a great ego manager. His players like each other, and they communicate well. McHale is no Greg Popovich, but he's no Mike Brown either. For the most part, NBA coaches don't matter, with the exclusion of some really good ones and some really bad ones. McHale won't win or lose Houston a playoff series, although he might become the scapegoat if the players fail to advance at some point in the future. Bottom line: stop blaming the coach; he knows better than anyone else that NBA players win and lose on their own.
12. Beverley is the heart, soul, engine, ignition and wild card of the Rockets
13. Lin is to Houston as Jamal Crawford is to Los Angeles (nothing more, nothing less)
The comparisons between Lin and Beverley are nauseating; it's like apples and oranges. Yes, they play the same position, but they play it in polar opposite ways. Lin's scoring is needed late in the first quarter, early in the second quarter, late in the third quarter, and early in the fourth quarter (when Harden usually takes a blow). Beverley's defense is needed when opposing point guards start tearing Houston up. They are both crucial to Houston's success, and they both can be the difference in a seven-game series. For those of you who want to compare them, remember that the impact of individual and team defense is unquantifiable, as even defensive statistics like steals and blocks aren't direct indications of defensive prowess. Oh, and remember that numbers like Defensive Rating and Defensive Win Shares are absolutely ridiculous (according to DWS Harden won the Rockets three games defensively last year; Yeah, right).
14. Daryl Morey is really good at his job
A year and a half ago, it seemed like Morey was on the chopping block. He whiffed on Howard and Deron Williams, and let Goran Dragic walk. Then, his master plan started to come to fruition (with the trade for Harden being the first key component). Morey's drafted well (Parsons in the second round, D-Mo and T-Jones in the back half of the first round), he's made savvy moves with his bench (signing Asik and Lin without hurting their chances of re-signing Parsons or Jones in the future), he found a way to land a couple stars, and he has used Houston's D-League team to their advantage (Jones, D-Mo, Beverley, Canaan, and Robert Covington have all spent time down there).
Oh, and he found his starting point guard off the waiver wire. Morey should have Executive of the Year all wrapped up, and he won't stop until he has put a winner on the floor. You can bet on that.
15. The Rockets will join the Thunder and Spurs as the premier Western Conference franchises in the near future
If you don't believe that, maybe you should find another team to follow. I was five years old the last time Houston won a title, and I've been waiting patiently ever since. I watched Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley play their hearts out without a frontcourt for years (remember when Kelvin Cato and Maurice Taylor were our starters?). I watched Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady fall short time and time again, with injuries always hindering their progress. I waited in purgatory for three consecutive years of being the best team not to make the playoffs. Now, the pieces are finally here, and it's Houston's time to shine.
Hopefully, we can all agree on that.
M. De Moor is an NBA junkie who has followed the Rockets since he was a kid. He'll be covering the team for Hoopshabit.com for the rest of the season, which is part of SI's Fansided Network. Follow him on Twitter @MikeDeMoor.
- Sports & Recreation
- Houston Rockets
- James Harden
- Jeremy Lin
- Patrick Beverley
- Dwight Howard